- Eva Braun made up as jazz singer Al Jolson
- Braun sunbathing and semi-nude behind umbrella
- Hitler’s long-time companion seen partying and smoking
At first glance, these pictures are so ordinary that they could come from anyone’s dusty old family album. There are picnics and parties, pets and silly poses — all the normal things you might associate with a middle-class family on holiday.
The most photographed figure is a young woman who sunbathes, exercises by a lake, rows a boat and poses semi-nude behind an umbrella — a young woman enjoying the prime of her life. But this is no ordinary woman.
The photographs are of the notorious Eva Braun — Hitler’s consort and, for about 40 hours, his wife.
Taken from Braun’s private albums, they were confiscated by the U.S. army in 1945 and deposited with the U.S. National Archives, where they were ignored for decades.
Recently unearthed by Reinhard Schulz, collector and curator of photography, the images include an intimate shot of Braun as a small child, posing with her sister Ilse and their family cat.
There’s an extraordinary photo of Braun blacked up and dressed as American jazz singer Al Jolson, and one of her standing alongside her lover and his aides as they celebrate on New Year’s Eve 1939.
Braun’s blind loyalty to the Führer exceeded that of even his most hardened SS aides — and lasted right up until their joint suicides in his Berlin bunker in the dying days of the war.
Braun in a rowboat on the Worthsee near Munich, 1937, and in her bathing suit near Berchtesgaden in 1940
It was a strange and twisted end to a life that had started ordinarily enough. The middle daughter of a Roman Catholic schoolmaster, Braun was born in 1912 and had a respectably bourgeois upbringing in Munich. At convent school, she achieved average grades but showed an aptitude for athletics.
In 1929, aged 17, she took a job in the office of the Nazi party’s official photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, which would lead to her first, fateful meeting with Hitler.
He was 40 — more than 20 years older than her — yet a relationship did blossom; though rumours persist about the extent of its physical side.
It seems likely now that Hitler was repelled by sex, and that any sex life between them would have been very infrequent.
Certainly, Hitler treated Eva abysmally. She was not permitted to share the dinner table if there were important guests present; he also hated her to wear make-up, dress in anything other than unflattering clothes, and despised her smoking and sunbathing naked.
Eva as a nine-year-old at the Beilngries convent school in Beilngries, Germany, in 1922, and in a 1935 photo titled ‘Carnival with Ege’ of her and an unidentified friend at a house party in Munich
The truth was that Hitler had little time for women, and would say as much in front of Braun. His favourite architect and confidant, Albert Speer, recalled how Hitler once remarked: ‘A highly intelligent man should take a primitive and stupid woman.’
So his mistress was essentially seen as a mere adornment — one that he kept trapped in a small room in the Chancellery in Berlin, in his flat in Munich, or, during summer, at his house in the Bavarian Alps. Occasionally, he would buy her jewellery, but the stones were usually insultingly cheap.
Photographs of Braun frolicking at Hitler’s Bavarian house show how well she could enjoy herself when Hitler was away, but underneath her happy exterior she suffered his absences dreadfully.
Enlarge Braun exercising in her bathing suit at Konigssee, Berchtesgaden, Germany, 1942. Eva Braun liked to go swimming at the lake, which is only 4 miles from Adolf Hitler’s Berghof, where she lived with the Nazi dictator
Braun drinks tea on Hitler’s balcony. She first met him while she was working as a model for Heinrich Hoffmann, pictured above right as Hitler looks through an album of his work
Twice, Braun tried unsuccessfully to kill herself. In 1932, she shot herself in the throat but missed her jugular; and in 1935, she took an overdose of sleeping pills.
Both attempts were regarded as cries for attention, however, rather than a genuine determination to end her life.
And they made no difference to Hitler, who — fearing that he would lose popularity with female supporters — kept the relationship secret almost until the very end of the war.
Only very rarely was Braun able to assert herself. For the most part, according to Hoffmann, Braun was regarded by Hitler as ‘just an attractive little thing, in whom, in spite of her inconsequential and feather-brained outlook, he found the type of relaxation and repose he sought’.
Eva Braun would only finally come into her own during the last month of her life.
In early April 1945, she joined Hitler in his bunker and declared she would never leave his side.
While Hitler’s Third Reich was collapsing, Braun’s stature seemed to grow.
She radiated what Albert Speer described as a ‘gay serenity’. She drank champagne, ate cake and claimed that she was happy in the bunker.
It was only in the early hours of April 29, 1945, that Braun’s ambitions were finally realised and she was married to Hitler. But at around 1pm the following afternoon, Eva and her new husband said farewell to those still with them.
Then, just after 3.30pm, Hitler shot himself, and his new wife bit into a cyanide capsule. Ironically, in death Eva Braun was far closer to her husband that she had been in life.
Eva Braun was said not to like Hitler’s German Shepherd Blondi, left, and had her own Scottish Terriers
A portrait of Adolf Hitler stares eerily from the wall in Eva Braun’s living room at the Berghof in 1937. On the right she is pictured sitting on a table in the living room at her parent’s house in Munich in 1929
Braun with two women and a person dressed as a polar bear in the Bavarian Alps, Germany, 1935, and walking with architect Albert Speer in 1940. Braun had a close relationship with Speer who designed a logo for her